Friday, February 26, 2016

Making a Murderer (dir. Laura Ricciardi & Moira Demos, 2015)

... just finished the 10 episode documentary, Making a Murderer by directors Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. Although it could have perhaps delivered its story in 7 or 8 episodes, I would highly recommend this thought-provoking series in its entirety. One of the primary questions of the story, as referenced in the title, is whether or not a man who was wrongly accused for 18 years was hardened into a criminal due serving time in the penal system--thus creating a criminal, which would explain his behavior after release--or if he was falsely accused for a murder after his release for which he is currently serving time. The evidence in the series strongly supports his innocence and thus it is heart-wrenching to consider that Steven Avery is in prison for a crime he did not commit.

This story has stayed with me, and it made me think about the ways narratives sustain ideas. Narratives can almost supernaturally suspend ideas for an indefinite period of time, like a note played on a wind instrument that is held beyond what we believe is possible. Sometimes they sustain ideas that are worth maintaining, ideas that would otherwise be fleeting. But by the grace of the author in general, and Ricciardi and Demos specifically, we focus on ideas longer here than we might otherwise, which leads us to new thought-associations that might not be realized if an idea were to emerge and drift away without the framework of a story.

Narratives do many things: they concretize ideology, they over-simplify chaos, they impose conformity where there is diversity. But when a narrative suspends an idea, as it does in Making a Murderer, so that we can walk underneath it, view it from multiple perspectives, sit down and stare at it, forget it when we doze off and then think of it again...the elephant in the room stays there a bit longer.

Sometimes a narrative represents an elephant in the room that is surprisingly calm, patient, impressive and awe-inspiring, and we never realized that such harmony within nature was possible. At other times, as we find here, the elephant in the room--in this case specifically the corrupt judicial system of Manitowoc County--keeps violently ramming into things, destroying precious objects, and it won't go away--and its presence is troubling because it is preventable.

This narrative sustains an idea, based on a historical circumstance, beyond our level of what are we going to do about it? That's a good question here.

"The truth always comes out": Making a Murderer Trailer on YouTube

Friday, February 12, 2016

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Zhang, 2005): Mini-Film Review

Zhang Yimou's 2005 film Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles depicts a Japanese father who travels to China to follow paths taken by his estranged son who discovered his identity by losing himself within the culture and landscape of the mainland. The father's personal mission is conducted hastily since his son has a terminal illness. Along the way, he finds his own path and meets a Chinese boy who helps the elderly man understand the rift that separates him from his son in Japan. What interests me most when viewing it today is the way its parable-like structure provides a vantage point into the psychology of China-Japan relations.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles Trailer